Steven Soderbergh had the temerity this past week to wonder aloud if the full-court rage of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements might not create the blowback effect of men tacitly agreeing that women as a group are inherently a danger to employ:
‘My fear is that, men being men, going forward, as opposed to changing their behavior, they’re just going to stop hiring women. In everything. In every business, in every part of the culture. “
Soderbergh couched the hypothetical in multiple layers of women’s rights superlatives and “those men might do this” distance, while raising a worthwhile discussion that would likely get him fired if he hadn’t quit Hollywood directing several years ago for disgust with the entire industry.
The very notion that men might respond in a defensive manner, rather than a capitulation and alteration of their eons old genetics, is considered too controversial to discuss in honest debate. Such that honest debate is fostered in any media outlet in this day and age. But might it?
Soderbergh frames the discussion as men are pigs and will respond like pigs in a circle of the wagons manner. He must. This is his bubble. Also, he lacks the ability to discuss the subject with a modicum of science. Such as, what is the instinct of any animal under attack? Quite simply, fight or flight. We see the flight response prevalent among the increasing apologetic, remorseful statements of men in entertainment and media circles, even when it’s unclear for what they are apologizing. Donald Sutherland announced on the Today show after Donald Trump’s electoral victory that he was “ashamed to be a white male“. That was considered a definitive statement. More recently Aziz Ansari apologized to a woman who published her diary of the post-date consensual sex session she found unfulfilling and pushy. It’s not unlike a gentleman to apologize any time his date says she had a bad time. It’s more unusual when you apologize to your date who quite knowingly tried to destroy your public reputation with cheap intimations of sexual misconduct against you.
The flight instinct in New York and Los Angeles is driven in part by the widespread beta male culture, and in more practical part by people not wanting their careers to be over at 35 for lack of a formal kowtow before the prevailing political winds. #TimesUp is an amazing movement in that every single women is it’s de facto leader, declaring the rules and when they’ve been broken. Dylan Farrow recently suggested Justin Timberlake was a #TimesUp persona non grata for having appeared in a Woody Allen movie. Obviously, she believes Woody Allen molested her as a child and would seek to punish anybody who associates with the man. But did she check with HQ on her banishment proceedings for a beloved (by women) figure such as Justin Timberlake? Or is this movement more a sickle lying about for any woman to lop off the heretics, traitors, and offenders, as she so personally defines them? Very Queen of Hearts.
What women have to risk in unleashing the collective pot of individual rage is pretty much everything. The pressing of the “rape culture” meme by feminist news outlets and their government body cohorts belies the fact that the past 20 years have seen a rapid and continual decline in violent crimes against women. Male “stranger” rape upon women is down drastically largely thanks to law enforcement efforts and stiffer sentencing, and even the far larger segment of acquaintance sexual assaults are dramatically down. Please say “one is too many” so we’ll know you’re not serious about trends in crime statistics. They are quite favorable toward the most prominent crime by men upon women and trending ever better.
This past fall, 56% of college entrants were women. Women outpace men now steadily in professional school enrollment and doctorate degrees. While the STEM disparity will be pushed to the forefront to keep alive the narrative that women are second class educational citizens, breaking down the disparities shows the level to which women are self-selecting out of such programs versus being denied access. Their dominance in all other fields, including medicine and other scientific doctoral program shows their admission is hardly being denied by some cabal. Rather, they simply don’t want to be programmers and engineers in the same level of interest as their male counterparts.
Women are fewer top corporate executives and top institutional leaders and political body representatives, but all of that is now trending dramatically female. Within some number of years, the overtaking of males is nearly inevitably in multiple power and privilege positions simply based on trends. To say gender bias still exists is an intelligent conversation non-starter. Of course it still exists, as it always will. As will racism, classism, cultural bias and every other societal ill ever battled by PBS cartoons of the 70’s. The idealist looks to change hearts and minds, the pragmatist looks to change conditions on the ground. “The Future is Women” is some idiotic slogan adopted by people needing logo T-shirts to prove they have self-esteem. Though in the socio-economic sense, it’s quite true on balance.
If you assess the cultural and professional privilege shift for women over the past fifty years, it’s monumental. Exceeding the previous five thousand years. In another fifty years, it’ll largely be complete. It’s a social shift he magnitude of which the world has never really seen before. At least in the Western world where it is largely occurring.
The risk Soderbergh timidly hints at is that looking to fast track the pendulum swing with blind rage, star chamber accusations, and social media court sentencing, may well result in a pushback that threatens much of these hard fought cultural evolutionary gains. That men will, in light of the facts, decide that their survival is improved by disassociating themselves with women, rather than embracing them into the tribe. When rapists such as Harvey Weinstein are taken down, men can rationalize that they don’t push women up against walls and masturbate into their potted plants. Therefore, they are safe. When a disgruntled co-worker, an unsatisfied date, or a person scouring your old Tweets for any signs of suggestive comments can ruin your livelihood, that’s where men as the collective become nervous. The natural inclination of the those under siege is to seek relief. In this context, you can’t attack your attackers, therefore, the best case may be to ensconce yourself in the keep of your own kind. Everybody runs to family in times of crisis. Everybody circles the wagons.
In a purely objective calculus, you’d be somewhat insane to assume the risk of hiring a woman over hiring a man of similar qualifications. Women hiring proponents will assure you of the benefits of insight and points of view and emotional IQs provided by women that you simply can’t get from a single gender enterprise. That belies the rising cost associated with the ability of a woman to damage both boss and company in ways that a male employee simply can not. Women have achieved the incredible advantage of being a majority of the population while receiving minority protection. No simple feat. But at every single element of human resource capacity of a company, the power shifts dramatically to female employee over male employee. The reflexive response is to insist that a boss or company who simply follows all the rules and regulations, and ensures all of their employees, contractors, and other forms of staff and potentially clients do the same, will be fine. That’s not a “simply”. That a massive exposure associated with failing to cross all the T’s. If you make such a common mistake with a male employee, you will live to see another day. With a female employee your personal and professional reputation may be brutalized in public and your firm may suffer dire consequences. Even if you’re intentions are earnest and your heart pure. Let alone if they’re not.
Men are simple creatures. It’s not that men will actively refuse self-reflection on their role in sexism dramas and hold up in their virtual frat houses watching porn and objectifying women, it’s that confused men will do what confused men always do: simplify the situation. The simplest way to deal with a game of confusing rules is simply not to play. Watch the recess playground and see groups of girls form elaborate games with insanely complicated rules. In contrast, the boys kick or throw things. When the kid who owns the ball decides there ought be additional rules to the simple game, half the clan quits. Merely look at the chaos in men’s lives these days thanks to the unclear definition of a valid pass reception in the NFL. Riots may ensue from the rules nuance. Women revel in ambiguity, men flee.
The inevitable outcome of human nature isn’t always entirely inevitable, or precisely predictable. That’s where common sense plays a valid role. Such as the expectation that for many men, fearful of the unknown repercussions, hiring women will be seen as an unnecessary risk. Consider how much time and effort men have put into legally avoiding tax liabilities through the years. Now imagine they see female hires as tax liabilities. There will be shelters, avoidance schemes, and subtle means by which they seek to diminish the exposure of women in their portfolio. Nobody will brag about it, or herald their workarounds, but it will surely happen. And at a time when the statistical trends are all favoring women. This could easily be a setback. Blind rage and vengeance are very rarely successful foundations for civil rights advances. When they are subject to the whim of every single supporter suddenly interjecting themselves as the movement’s chief decider, it can only become that much more shaky.
For all the squeamish mitigation of his own providence, Steven Soderbergh is most definitely onto something.
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